Live review | Chicago Dancing Festival 2011: Opening Night Gala and Benefit
The world is a mess but a dance for two people is “the profound expression of freedom as trust,” Chicago Dancing Festival cofounder said, eloquent as usual last night at a $250-per-head benefit for the fest’s fifth-anniversary week of free performances, .
Lubovitch spoke after the event’s honorary chair, Rahm Emanuel, who announced his hopes for the festival to double its size within the next four years. Emanuel was introduced by the fest’s other founder, dancer “the verve and gusto” with which Chicago’s new mayor has embraced their project., who noted
Underscoring the “freedom through partnership” theme, five wildly different duets took the Joffrey Ballet’s Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili instead painted it by numbers, beading the solo violin’s long, lyrical passages with a chain of unrelated events.. (A sixth, part of ’s forthcoming not…not, was canceled due to technical difficulties; it’ll go on as planned .) Each was a formal exercise, with the exception of the Shaker Interior scene from Robert Wilson’s “Snow on the Mesa,” inspired by Martha Graham, whose namesake company’s Tadej Brdnik and Xiaochuan Xie danced it with sublime clarity and specificity of gesture. (I look forward to seeing it again on the Wednesday night bill, to be hosted by .) Another all-white duet, Odette and Siegfried’s adagio from Swan Lake, , but the
The duet from Alonzo King’s Following the Subtle Current Upstream is captivating in the hands and all other body parts of Alejandro Cerrudo and Penny Saunders, who danced it, representing Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Like Brdnik and Xie, these two touch both the theatrical and compositional proposals of their assignments without suggesting that either is more important. Especially as presented at this gala, on a bare stage with minimal hoo-ha, both King’s and Wilson’s pieces benefited from performers who prioritize their actions. One’s stillness gives ground to the other’s movement-figure; one plays the straight man or woman to the other’s comic. (Importantly, these partnerships last no longer than is necessary—given cooperation and concision, one minute can hold hundreds of them.)
Brian Brooks’s MOTOR was the evening’s only same-sex partnership, danced by Brooks and David Scarantino in near-total unison with the fraternal competitiveness of the swimming scene in Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca. To quick, quiet percussion under big, booming organ notes composed by Jonathan Pratt, the pair hopped around the stage with short, sliding jumps as if stones on a pond’s surface, while their bodies changed poses along broad arcs of sculpture. Movement texture, as opposed to spatial organization, was paramount—I keyed into the big similarities and small differences in the way their bodies instinctually responded to Brooks’s ceaselessly percussive choreography. Dressed identically (and barely) in black trunks, they could’ve been twins, a split personality, or a mentor and a student locked in obsessive one-upmanship. Aside from all that I marveled at the pair’s control and endurance.
The evening closed with a world premiere commission by the festival from Walter Dundervill, “a movement rebel and very possibly a lunatic,” as Lubovitch introduced the choreographer/costume designer/performance artist during his remarks. Titled Compression Piece (Swan Lake), it obviously referenced the 19th-century duet that opened the program, in Dundervill’s sampling of Tchaikovsky’s score, his nearly all-white set and convertible, aristocratic garments, and various broad-stroke echoes of Lev Ivanov’s choreography (a few hops in arabesque, some fleeting bourées, fluttering Odette arms, feathers, etc.). Bratty, somewhat subversive, ritualistic, self-parodying and ultimately vapid, the piece, performed by Dundervill and Jennifer Kjos, surely sparked conversation during the dinner that followed.
Lubovitch said of good duets that their dancers “risk everything in wordless abandon.” This is true. I get that Compression Piece proposed an extension of this credo beyond the fourth wall. Mutual abandon, however, isn’t something that’s entered into lightly. Trust is hard to earn.